GAME STORY: Wall capitalizes on Breck mistakes to escape with 5-4 win in Game 1 (box score & two videos included)

When facing a top-ranked unbeaten opponent in a regional semifinal game, the need to hold mistakes to a minimum is axiomatic. 

The fact that Breckenridge gave No. 1 Wall three unearned runs behind five errors and still nearly pulled off an upset in a 5-4 Game 1 loss Friday at Abilene Christian University’s Crutcher Scott Field, is the backdrop the two teams will play against in Game 2.

Caleb Heuertz scattered 10 Breckenridge hits in a complete-game win and Charlie Mascorro was 1 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored to lead Wall (34-0), which can close out the series with a win in Game 2, slated for 3:30 p.m. at ACU.  Game 3, if needed, will begin 30 minutes after Game 2.

Jake Jansa scored the eventual game-winner for the Hawks in the top of the seventh on an infield error, bringing the Wall contingent to its feet. 

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GAME STORY: Hawley walks off with 4-3 win over New Deal in Game 1

Sitting at 0 for 2 with a sacrifice bunt through his first three plate appearances, Hawley’s Jaron Reynolds was having a forgettable day at the plate when he stepped into the batter’s box for his final at-bat.

But with his team down to its final out and the winning run standing at second, the junior second baseman needed all of one swing to change that.

After watching from the on-deck circle as Tate Thompson struck out for the second out of the seventh inning, Reynolds picked up his teammate with a bases-loaded double over the New Deal right fielder to score Caleb Comer and Robert Ybarra for the tying and winning runs in a 4-3 walk-off win over the Lions.

The come-from-behind victory gave the Bearcats a one game to none lead in their Region I-2A semifinal series, putting them one win away from a spot in the region championship. 

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GAME STORY: West pitches Albany past Hale Center in Game 1

HERMLEIGH — The Albany Lions scored just two of their nine runners to reach scoring position Friday in Game 1 of their Region I-2A semifinal series against Hale Center, but ace Ben West was so good on the mound that it  didn’t matter.

The junior right-hander struck out 13 Owl batters in a one-hit shutout to lead AHS to a 2-0 victory at Cardinal Field and pull his team within one win of its third region final appearance since 2016.

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GAME REPORT: Jaco, Bushland too much for Brock baseball in Game 1

LUBBOCK — The Brock baseball team could never solve Bushland starter Skyler Jaco on Thursday, tallying just three hits and two walks in falling 8-0 to the Falcons in Game 1 of a best-of-three Region I-3A semifinal series.

The Bushland junior outdueled Brock ace Cooper Nelson, who pitched a strong game himself until running into trouble in the sixth inning. It was just a 2-0 game until the sixth, when Bushland struck for six runs to put things away.

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GAME STORY: Bushland dodges several Brock bullets to capture Game 1

IOWA PARK — From Bushland’s perspective, Wednesday’s 7-4 win over Brock in Game 1 of the Region I-3A championship series wasn’t pretty. 

What it was, was a near-seminar in dodging bullets and making plays in key situations.

Aside from being outhit 10-4, the Lady Falcons stranded no fewer than 12 Brock base runners, seven of those in scoring position. 

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BCP Podcast No. 47: Evan, Daniel dive deep into softball, baseball playoffs

With the baseball and softball playoffs nearing their end and six Big Country teams remaining between the two sports, Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood decided to forego a guest for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Night Podcast to dive deep into the remaining baseball and softball series.

Also in this episode, Evan and Daniel look back at last week’s action and say goodbye to the area baseball and softball teams we lost.

FEATURE: Family ties too strong for Lombard to resist leaving Wall

In the end, it took a special situation for Tate Lombard to leave girls basketball powerhouse Wall.

That opportunity came about over the weekend and the Big Country Preps girls basketball coach of the year resigned his position on Monday morning to take an assistant coach position on his father’s staff at Class 4A Canyon High School.

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DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Previewing the remaining softball, baseball series

The high school softball season is down to its final two weeks, baseball season is down to its last three, and the Big Country contingent for both sports is dwindling.

In softball, we’re down to Brock, which will take on Bushland for the Region I-3A crown this weekend, while five area baseball teams remain with a shot to advance to state.

In Class 3A, it’s Wall, Breckenridge and Brock. In Class 2A, it’s Hawley and Albany.

With just six teams and five series remaining to divide our attention across, it’s time to get out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at what each of those teams is facing this week. We hope you enjoy this look at the Big Country playoff schedule.

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FEATURE: Buckaroos approaching series with top-ranked Wall as a special chance

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.” — Herb Brooks 

If the top-ranked Wall baseball team is beatable, nobody has proven it in 2019. 

Area clubs have had 33 opportunities to defeat the Hawks and every one of them have been shot down in flames —more often than not, by lopsided margins. 

That is the challenge currently facing Breckenridge coach Kevin Bartley, whose Buckaroos (32-3) will take on Wall (33-0) in a best-of-three Region I-3A semifinal series, beginning at 1 p.m. Friday at Abilene Christian University. 

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FEATURE: Can Brock’s Lady Eagles hit their way to a state title?

If the old saying that pitching and defense win championships is true, then perhaps its premature to give too much attention to the offensive performance of the Brock softball team. 

Then again, there is another adage that for every rule, there is an exception. And with the current numbers being posted by Brock (31-6), one may be tempted to believe that offensive production alone could push the Lady Eagles all the way to the end of the state bracket. 

Skeptical? Try these stats on for size. 

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FEATURE: Albany’s run to region semis continues trend of baseball success for Lions

With the run of success the Albany baseball team has had the past five years, it should surprise no one that the Lions are back in the region semifinals.

Coach David Fairchild’s team has advanced to at least the third round of the playoffs every year since 2015, with a trip to the Region I-2A championship game in 2016 and the program’s first state tournament appearance in 2017.

With four players on their roster who played on that state team, the Lions have a small nucleus of upperclassmen who know what that experience is like. And those guys have a whole bunch of teammates who are eager to find out themselves.

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FEATURE: Aggressive Hawley lineup dangerous from top to bottom

The Hawley baseball team’s offensive approach isn’t a particularly novel one. The Bearcats subscribe to the same “Get on base, move the runner around, repeat” process that most other successful lineups do.

But what is unique about this Hawley squad is the efficiency with which it does those things and the lengths it can — and will — go to to get them done.

Coach Jamie Seago is blessed with a lineup that goes nine deep with players who can get a hit when needed, will lay down a bunt if asked to and are always looking to take an extra base once they get on. And it’s the combination of those things that makes the Bearcat lineup one of the toughest in all of Class 2A to pitch through.

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FEATURE: Brock’s Nelson a genuine rarity among high school pitchers

It is an accepted norm that successful high school baseball pitchers require high strikeout counts. 

The reason for that is simple: aluminum bats hitting into high school defenses is a recipe for run production, forcing pitchers to take matters into their own hands. 

There are very few exceptions. Yet the Brock Eagles and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor have managed to find one in senior BHS southpaw Cooper Nelson.  

Nelson, a soft-throwing change-up specialist with razor-sharp control, has required only 49 strikeouts through 78 innings to post an 8-2 record and a microscopic 0.81 ERA.  

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GAME STORY: Hawley rebounds from Game 1 loss to eliminate Stamford

HERMLEIGH — After Friday’s 6-5 loss to district rival Stamford, Hawley coach Jamie Seago said he hoped the four-run, seventh-inning rally that pulled his team within a run would carry over into the second day of the Bearcats’ Region I-2A quarterfinal series with the Bulldogs.

That would certainly seem to have been the case.

Hawley, which was held to one run over the first six innings in Game 1, pounded out 31 hits over two games Saturday, rebounding from Friday’s loss with an 8-4 win in Game 2 and a 20-7 victory in the deciding third game.

The wins improved Seago’s Bearcats to 22-11-1 on the year and pushed them into the I-2A semis, where they’ll face 21-3 New Deal next week. 

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GAME STORY: Brock hangs on to beat Clyde in decisive Game 2 (two videos and box score included; photo gallery to come later tonight)

With Brock handing Clyde a 10-0 drubbing in Game 1 of their Region I-3A quarterfinal series on Thursday, it may have been tempting for those watching to simply write off the Bulldogs in Game 2.

Brock coach Hart Hering knew better. 

With Clyde facing elimination, the Bulldogs nearly forced a Game 3, falling to Brock 8-6 at Abilene Christian University on Saturday.  

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GAME STORY: Borden County ends Ira’s season with hard-fought 2-1 win

HERMLEIGH — Ira’s Karson Valentine and Borden County’s Zane Allen matched zeroes for most of the evening Friday in a one-game Region I-1A semifinal playoff at Hermleigh’s Cardinal Field. But the Coyotes got to Valentine for two runs in the first and made that stand up in a hard-fought 2-1 victory.

Valentine deftly pitched out of trouble for most of the game, but three walks and a hit batter led to Borden County’s big first inning, and that was all the support needed for Allen, who surrendered one unearned run over seven innings on two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.

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GAME STORY: Big innings, Kizer fuel Brock softball to 17-0 win over Slaton

No. 7 ranked Brock got a one-hitter from Lauren Kizer and rolled to a 17-0 win over Slaton in the opening game of the Region I-3A semifinals Friday at Abilene Christian University’s Wells Field.

Kizer finished the night with 12 strikeouts, recording at least two in every inning and striking out the side in the second and fifth innings.

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GAME STORY: Surging Stamford holds on for 6-5 win over district rival Hawley in Game 1

HERMLEIGH — After dropping their two district matchups against Hawley by a combined margin of 19-4, the Stamford Bulldogs struck first blood in their Region I-2A quarterfinal series against the Bearcats on Friday. Coach Kevin Bartley’s team raced out to a 6-1 lead after two innings and held off a late rally to take Game 1 of the best-of-three affair 6-5 and stretch its playoff-long win streak to five games.

Things got dicey in the seventh for the Bulldogs, who saw back-to-back errors extend the game after Garrett Hewitt had slapped a one-out infield single for Hawley. But after getting a pop up for the second out and allowing a two-run single to Kolter Willeford and RBI walk to Colton Marshall, reliever Josh Mueller got Dylan Frazier to ground out to  end the game with the tying run at third and winning run at second.

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GAME STORY: Wylie’s remarkable postseason run stops at a loaded Colony (w/ box score and photo gallery)

GRAFORD — The longer a playoff run continues, the higher the likelihood of running into a softball team that is “loaded.” 

 The remarkable postseason journey of the 2019 Wylie Lady Bulldogs (19-17) closed on that note, falling in a two-game regional semifinal sweep to sixth-ranked Lewisville The Colony — capped with a 12-5 loss in Game 2 on Friday at Graford. 

The loss closed the books on a Wylie campaign that saw the Lady Bulldogs push to within one round of the regional championship series in their first-ever season at the 5A level. 

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GAME STORY: Albany sweeps district rival Haskell in regional quarterfinals

Albany leadoff hitter B.J. Morris safely reached base in his first seven plate appearances on Thursday night and led the Lions to a Region I-2A quarterfinal sweep over Haskell with 15-1 and 6-3 wins at McMurry’s Walt Driggers Field.

The sweep propelled Albany into the regional semifinals against the winner of the Hale Center-Gruver series.

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GAME STORY: Buckaroos edge Holliday in Game 1 thriller (w/ box score, two videos and photo gallery)

GRAHAM — An 18-game winning streak came within an eyelash of ending on Thursday, as the Breckenridge Buckaroos rallied from a 3-1 deficit with a five-run fifth in a nail-biting 6-5 Region I-3A quarterfinal win over Holliday. 

Justin Bell drove in Gerardo Palacios  and Aaryn Medina with a two-out single in fifth to lift the Buckaroos (31-2), who can push their winning streak to 20 games and clinch the best-of-three series if they win Game 2 on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Graham’s Steer Stadium. 

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GAME STORY: The Colony rides two-out magic to Game 1 win over Wylie

GRAFORD — No. 6 Lewisville The Colony capitalized on its scoring chances Thursday and Wylie couldn’t. In the end, that was the difference in a 7-1 victory for the Lady Cougars in Game 1 of a best-of-three Region I-5A semifinal softball series.

The Colony (37-3) scored all seven of its runs with two outs, including four unearned runs in the second inning, while Wylie came up empty on a bases-loaded, no-outs situation with a chance to get back into the game in the fifth.

That proved to be the Lady Bulldogs’ best opportunity the rest of the way as The Colony pitcher Karly Charles roped a two-run home run in the bottom of that same inning to push a five-run lead to seven runs and effectively put the game away.

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FEATURE: Wylie softball embracing underdog role in I-5A semifinal series against The Colony

The Wylie Lady Bulldogs are no strangers to the underdog role. They’ve been playing it most of this season.

That was true during District 4-5A play, which saw Wylie rebound from a 13-3 loss at Aledo to win its next seven league games.

And it was true in each of the Lady Bulldogs’ first three playoff series — wins over quality teams from Canyon Randall (18-16), El Paso Eastwood (25-8-1) and Lubbock Coronado (28-11).

So if you think coach Heather Collier’s team will be overwhelmed or intimidated by a Region I-5A semifinal matchup with No. 6 Lewisville The Colony (36-3), you can think again. The Lady Bulldogs have a healthy respect for the Lady Cougars and all they’ve accomplished this year, but they’ve accomplished too much themselves to fear anyone.

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FEATURE: Albany benefiting from latest West installment

Two of his three older brothers — Gus and Ligon — have helped pitch the Stamford Bulldogs into the state tournament in recent years. 

So it may come as no surprise that 17-year-old Albany junior Ben West has made a splash this season as one of the top small-school pitchers in the Big Country. 

The only difference is, this particular West model will be sporting red, rather than blue, when Albany and Haskell meet in a three-game regional quarterfinal series, beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday at McMurry. 

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BCP Podcast No. 46: Evan, Daniel catch up with Gorman softball coach Guthery

Gorman softball coach Nick Guthery has led the Lady Panthers to a 26-0 record this season and has his team one win away from its first state tournament appearance in school history.

Earlier this week, Guthery took some time to chat with Big Country Preps’ Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood about the run his team is on, his Region II-1A opponent, Dodd City, and the program he’s built for this week’s Capital Farm Credit Wednesday Podcast.

Also on this week’s episode, Evan and Daniel recap last week’s baseball and softball playoff action and take a look forward to this weekend’s top matchups.

FEATURE: Buckaroos enter uncharted territory, keeping things simple

BRECKENRIDGE — First-year Breckenridge baseball coach Kevin Bartley is getting a major-league lesson in multi-tasking. 

At present, his Buckaroos are facing a dangerous Holliday team (23-8-2) in the Region I-3A quarterfinals — the biggest postseason challenge his club has faced on its journey to winning the first area baseball championship in school history.

If the Bucks survive the current round, the bar only gets higher — with possible matchups against top-ranked Wall, Clyde or a rematch with district mate Brock among others to prepare for.

All this, while trying to keep everyone on his team on an even keel in a sports-crazy town that can provide plenty of its own distractions. 

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FEATURE: Dominant pitching a big reason for Wall’s No. 1 ranking

By MIKE LEE (Special to Big Country Preps) photos courtesy of Stephanie Weishuhn

Most Class 3A baseball teams hope to have one or two starting pitchers who can consistently shut down opponents.

Wall has five pitchers with earned run averages of 0.60 or less, and it’s not like the undefeated Hawks have played a weak schedule. Their nondistrict victims include Class 6A Odessa High and 4A opponents Pecos, Andrews, Seminole, Dumas, Lubbock Estacado, Lamesa and Snyder.

It’s no wonder Wall is 31-0 and has been ranked No. 1 in 3A in the Texas Association of Baseball Coaches poll since the first week of April. Wall will face Alpine in the regional quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday in a best-of-three series scheduled for Christensen Stadium in Midland.

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Big Country Preps Player of the Week: Tomlinson takes our final award for 2018-19

After a disappointing finish in the high jump Friday morning as the defending champion in that event, Early’s Trinity Tomlinson had one chance at redemption at the state track meet in the 100-meter hurdles. 

She cashed in on the opportunity, finishing in 14.93 seconds to take gold. In doing so, she also earned our final Big Country Preps Player of the Week for the 2018-19 school year. 

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